The Times, They Are A-Changin'

In light of the almost-inevitable season-ending loss of center Matt Birk, injuries have put a couple of other key positions into question. How the Vikings handle the Birk situation may pale compared to how the team makes decisions in regard to players with less significant injuries.

Injuries are part of like in the NFL. Each year, players are lost to injury and careers are affected. But, is it for better or worse?

Depending on who you listen to, either the Vikings management are heartless mutts or Matt Birk is putting a gun to the organizational head – both sides are getting equal billing. Before Friday's game with the Chargers, new owner Zygi Wilf and Birk chatted on the sidelines – dismissing any belief that a flat-line animosity exists. While it looks like Birk will be placed on injured reserve and have yet another surgery, those who back their Pro-Birk stance in an argument have to realize that he was an All-Pro five surgeries ago – not post-five surgeries.

Surprisingly, Birk's status is actually diminished on the Vikings immediate radar scope – taking the bronze medal behind a couple of more pressing preseason competition issues.

First on the list has to be the kicking situation. Heading into Friday's game, Paul Edinger and Aaron Elling were viewed as equal – neither had grabbed the kicking job by the throat and neither had choked it away. During pregame warmups, Elling blinked. A muscle strain took him out of competition. The team had no choice but to go with Edinger. They were in a pinch. How did he respond? He dropped his kickoffs inside the 5-yard line and scored 13 points in a 19-16 win.

Second on the same list was the absence of Michael Bennett from the starting lineup. While that hasn't been uncommon in recent memory, Friday's win did make a case against having the injured guy win the starting job. Why? Because the Vikings won.

In his first two seasons with the Vikings, the team was 1-2 in games in which Bennett didn't play and 10-19 in games in which he did. In the last two seasons, Bennett has five or more carries in 16 of the team's 32 regular season games. In the 16 games in which he has been a factor, the Vikings are 5-11. In the 16 games he hasn't, the team is 12-4.

For his career in the regular season to date, in games that Bennett has not been a focus of the offense, the Vikings are 13-6. In the games he has, the team is 15-30. Seeing as Tice enjoys his numbers and has been known to take an interest in the odds at the track, 15-30 is not a good number – on neither a dry nor muddy track.

The NFL axiom that a starter doesn't lose his job because of injury is bunk. It happens all the time. Perhaps Elling and Bennett are going to learn that lesson the hard way. Why? Because the team has done just fine when they're not around.

SUNDAY NOTES
* The team downplayed the ankle injury to Mewelde Moore Saturday, saying that his ankle sprain wasn't serious and that he'll be evaluated today to determine a prognosis.
* Rookie Ciatrick Fason, who sustained a high ankle sprain in the Jets game, might be available for Friday's game with the Seahawks.
* Tice wasn't pleased with the play of Chargers LB Stephen Cooper and asked for the league to look at a few selected plays from Friday's game – including the play in which Moore was hurt. Tice contends that Cooper horse-collared Moore and at least one other Viking – prohibited under the new ruling brought on by the injury to Terrell Owens when he was tackled by serial offender Roy Williams.
* The Vikings may want to see if Bill Parcells or Jerry Jones is on Line 2. The Cowboys nixed a deal that would have sent a draft pick to the Jaguars for kicker Seth Marler. He failed the Cowboys physical and the deal was off – leaving former Viking Jose Cortez as the team's primary kicker. It gives pause to what either Elling or Edinger might be worth with at least a handful of teams still undecided on a kicker. Sixth-rounder anyone?
* The official cutdown date for the league is Tuesday, as teams must trim 10 players from their rosters. Don't be stunned if the Vikings announce at least a couple of players today and have their full list submitted by Monday.

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